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You Ask, I Answer: Post-Workout Nutrition

Posted Dec 07 2009 10:00pm

aquatic_weight_roomI really enjoy working out at the gym, trying to build some muscle.

Therefore, I would like to ask you a question about how a proper recovery meal should look after an intense workout.

How much protein is enough?  There seem to be so many self-proclaimed nutrion experts on this area.

Maybe you could clear up the confusion?

– (Name Withheld)
(City Unknown), Sweden

I would be more than happy to.

To help your body complement your strength-and-muscle-building workouts, this is what you should be consuming ideally within a half hour of leaving the gym:

  • 300 – 400 calories
  • 25 – 30 grams of protein
  • 50 – 80 grams of carbohydrates
  • 12 to 16 ounces of water

As you can see, low-carbohydrate meals and shakes after a workout are absolutely senseless.

It is important to provide the body with enough carbohydrates to fully restore glycogen stores and encourage as much protein synthesis and muscle repair as possible.

That is not an excuse to eat nutritionally empty foods like donuts, french fries, or candy bars.  After all, you also want to make sure to nourish your body with important minerals like magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

Although food should be your main goal, this is one of those instances where an appropriate protein shake is useful.  Here is what I mean by appropriate:

  • Meets — and does not exceed! — calorie, carbohydrate, and protein requirements.  Outrageous amounts of protein are completely unnecessary
  • Is minimally processed.  Most ready-to-drink protein drinks and bars are nutritional horrors!  I recommend making your own at home if possible.  For example, mix unflavored 100% whey protein with water (or your milk or dairy alternative of choice), a piece of fruit, and some healthy fat (almond butter, ground flaxseed).  PS: Add in some cocoa powder, cinnamon, or vanilla extract for a healthy flavor boost.

I want to emphasize these post-workout guidelines are for people who are looking to build muscle and completing intense strength-training workouts.

This is a completely inappropriate meal after a 25-minute brisk walk or jog.

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